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Ukraine war latest: Russia attacks Odesa, claims 'retaliation' for Crimean Bridge incident

by The Kyiv Independent news desk July 19, 2023 12:59 AM 8 min read
This photograph shows a downed missile that hit a private house on July 18, 2023, in Odesa, Ukraine. (Southern Operational Command)
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Key developments on July 18:

  • Russia targets Odesa with Kalibr missiles, drones
  • Yermak: Russian drones still have Western-made parts, more sanctions needed
  • Defense Ministry: Ukraine regains initiative near Kupiansk, continues offensive along southern front
  • European Parliament calls for ICC arrest warrant against Lukashenko
  • Benelux countries to send M113 infantry vehicles to Ukraine
  • Shmyhal: Ukraine to reconstruct Kakhovka dam and power plant

Explosions were reported in Odesa at around 2:30 a.m. local time on July 18. Russia targeted the port city with six Kalibr missiles, which Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed was "retaliation" for the attack on the Crimean Bridge on July 17.

Russian media originally reported two explosions at the Crimean Bridge around 3 a.m. local time on July 17 and accused Ukraine of being behind the act. Ukraine has neither claimed responsibility nor denied its involvement in the incident.

The Crimean Bridge connects Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which has been under illegal Russian occupation since 2014, with Russia’s Krasnodar Krai.

Ukrainian air defense was able to shoot down all six Kalibr missiles targeting Odesa, according to the Air Force. Thirty-one out of 36 Shahed kamikaze drones and one reconnaissance drone launched by Russia overnight from the south were also shot down.

However, Ukraine's Southern Operational Command reported that the debris and the resulting shockwave caused property damage and injured one person in the city.

Four of the drones were shot down over Mykolaiv Oblast, according to Southern Operational Command. An industrial facility in Mykoliav caught fire but there were no causalities.

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Yermak: Russian drones still have Western-made parts, more sanctions needed

Andrii Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, said on July 18 that one of the four drones shot down over Mykolaiv last night was made with parts from Western and Asian countries.

On Telegram, Yermak posted an image of the Iranian-made Shahed drone's engine with the words "Made in Ireland" clearly visible on the carburetor.

"Russians often erase serial numbers in foreign components," he added, posting a second image of the drone's internal components where the serial number had been removed.

The fact that Shahed drones include components from Western and Asian countries means that there are not enough sanctions in place, Yermak added.

"The manufacturing companies also cannot accept that their components are present in weapons that kill people. Russia has been buying foreign technological products for many years, but now, when they are becoming instruments of killing people, terrorism, and genocide, this cannot continue," he said.

National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksii Danilov previously reported on June 3 that Ukrainian authorities found parts inside drones "that are not produced in either Iran or Russia."

Danilov stressed that it was vital to look into how spare parts that Moscow could use for the drones were ending up in Russia or Iran despite existing sanctions.

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Defense Ministry: Ukraine regains initiative near Kupiansk, continues offensive along southern front

Russia's offensive in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction has failed to make any gains, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported on July 18.

"The battles continue, but the initiative is already on our side," Maliar said.

Serhii Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Military Command, previously reported on July 17 that Russia was concentrating "more than 100,000 personnel, more than 900 tanks, more than 555 artillery systems, 370 MLRS" in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction.

Kupiansk was liberated in Ukraine's counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast in September 2022. Lyman, located in Donetsk Oblast, was liberated just weeks later.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine's Ground Forces, acknowledged on July 17 that the situation in the east was difficult. According to Syrskyi, Russia has been attempting to gain ground in the Kupiansk area to continue "the offensive into the depth of our battle formations."

In her July 18 update, Malyar also said that Ukrainian troops were advancing on the southern flank of Bakhmut. Ukrainian offensives are also advancing in the direction of Russian-occupied Berdiansk and Melitopol, she added.

Concerning the slow pace of the counteroffensive, Maliar explained that "our troops have to move in extremely difficult conditions" and that Russian forces are making an effort to stop any advances.

"Remember the liberation of Kherson - it also took more than one day," Maliar said.

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European Parliament calls for ICC arrest warrant against Lukashenko

The European Parliament called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 18 to issue an arrest warrant against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko due to his regime's involvement in the war against Ukraine, including the deportation of Ukrainian children.

"With the International Criminal Court (ICC) already having issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, MEPs call on the ICC to consider a similar arrest warrant for (Alexander Lukashenko)," the parliament said in its statement.

Additionally, the parliament condemned ongoing human rights abuses in Belarus, expressed opposition to the participation of Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, and called for the release of political prisoners as well as the implementation of tougher EU sanctions.

The statement also raised concerns about Belarus' increasing subordination to Russia and urged the EU to provide stronger and more decisive support to the Belarusian democratic opposition.

On June 27, the Belarusian anti-government organization National Anti-Crisis Management submitted evidence to the ICC that Lukashenko and other Belarusian and Russian officials are responsible for the forced deportation of at least 2,100 Ukrainian children to Belarus.

Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets has also said that Ukrainian children, as well as prisoners of war, are being transported to Belarus with the knowledge of authorities in Minsk.

The ICC issued arrest warrants against Putin and Lvova-Belova on March 17 for allegedly overseeing the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children. The Ukrainian government database Children of War estimates no less than 19,500 children have been taken.

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Benelux countries to send M113 infantry vehicles to Ukraine

In a joint statement on July 18, the defense ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg announced their countries' plan to send refurbished M113 armored vehicles to Ukraine in the coming months.

Additionally, Ukraine will receive the necessary spare parts for the vehicles.

"With this donation, we show that we continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression," the Benelux defense ministers said.

"Joining our efforts, we are responding to the request of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to further deploy armored vehicles," they added.

Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are also part of a new international coalition to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, which was announced at the NATO summit in Vilnius earlier in July.

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Shmyhal: Ukraine to reconstruct Kakhovka dam and power plant

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced on July 18 that the Ukrainian government has given its approval for the commencement of a reconstruction project for the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant.

According to Shmyhal, the reconstruction project is set to take place in two stages over a two-year period.

"At the first stage, we will design all engineering structures, and prepare the necessary base for restoration. The second stage will begin after the de-occupation of the territories where the (power plant) is located. This involves actual construction work," Shmyhal said.

Shymal added that the project will be coordinated by the Economy Ministry and the state-owned energy company Ukrhydroenergo will take on the work.  

On the morning of June 6, 2023, the dam of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, situated in Russian-occupied territory across the Dnipro River, was destroyed. The event has triggered a massive humanitarian and environmental crisis throughout southern Ukraine.

Within two weeks, the dam's destruction had already caused an estimated $1.5 billion worth of damage to Ukraine.

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